Home Knowledge High Court Confirms Scope of Duty of Care owed by Screening Service Providers

High Court Confirms Scope of Duty of Care owed by Screening Service Providers

The High Court has today affirmed the 2019 decision of Mr Justice Cross, in Morrissey v HSE and others [2019] IEHC 268 (Morrissey), that there is no duty of care owed by screening services to relatives of those who participate in a screening programme.

Mr Justice  O’Connor delivered  the ruling in Mitchell v HSE and others [2023] IEHC 394, proceedings against the HSE brought by the parents (plaintiffs) of a woman who participated in the CervicalCheck screening programme, and who sadly passed away. The HSE joined a screening laboratory as a Third Party to the proceedings in which the plaintiffs sought damages for nervous shock and mental distress.

This is an important decision of the High Court for screening programmes in Ireland.  It is particularly timely as it follows the  publication of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Working Group Report on Recommendations on Best Practices in Cervical Screening Programmes.

In his judgment, O’Connor J said that whether a duty of care exists and what a reasonable person could reasonably foresee was for the court to decide. The court does not require evidence to be put before it of what a screener or reviewer could reasonably have concluded. O’Connor J held that the Morrissey judgment is authority for the position that no duty of care is owed by those providing screening services to relatives or family members. O’Connor J was not persuaded substantial reasons existed for departing from this position.

Issues in the proceedings are ongoing, and this is a judgment on the above aspects of the claim only.

The William Fry Healthcare team acts for the Third Party screening laboratory in this case.  Should you wish to discuss any aspect of this article in more detail please contact Margaret Muldowney.